Democrat from Las Cruces elected Senate president pro tem
A six-week campaign for president pro tem of the state Senate ended Tuesday with Sen. Mary Kay Papen as the unanimous winner.
The 42 senators — 25 Democrats and 17 Republicans — elected Papen by acclamation.
“I’m glad that we came together,” Papen, D-Las Cruces, said afterward.
Her rival for the job, fellow Democrat Pete Campos of Las Vegas, withdrew from the competition and instead nominated Papen. She had said she had 24 to 27 votes and was certain to win in a contested race.
As president pro tem, she will play a key role in committee assignments.
Papen, 80, said the defeat of former senator Tim Jennings in the fall election led her to seek the leadership position. She said she had never aspired to be president pro tem before then.
Jennings, a conservative Democrat from Roswell, worked easily Republican senators. Some of those same Republicans encouraged Papen to run for president pro tem, knowing a member of their caucus could not win.
Another senator from southern New Mexico, Sen. John Arthur Smith, D-Deming, is likely to remain as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
Smith revealed after Papen’s election that both she and Campos had told him that they wanted him in that job. Many had speculated that Campos would try to drop Smith as the chairman, but Smith said Campos told him otherwise.